School board sets budget process time line
JAY - The RSU 73 school board and superintendent discussed the district's second failed budget validation vote Thursday evening, planning for another month of meetings and votes.
Tuesday, residents in Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls voted to not validate the results of the July 10 budget meeting, where attendees passed the $18.73 million budget proposed by the school board and administration. That budget was the second defeated at referendum, with residents voted against validating the first budget on June 12. A total of $282,000 has been cut out the original, $19 million budget proposed by the school board at the beginning of June.
Only 815 total votes were cast Tuesday in all three towns. That's down from the June 12 vote, when 1,376 total votes were cast.
Thursday evening, Superintendent Robert Wall, Board Chair Denise Rodzen of Livermore Falls and Vice Chair Mary Redmond Luce of Jay all expressed concerns that residents were linking the school budget to the consolidation of the Jay School Department and MSAD 36, a process which began in 2010. Wall read from the cover sheet of the reorganization plan, which indicated that cost savings "will be realized over a period of years," listing staff attrition, combining classes and some administrative functions and closing schools as the principal mechanisms of cost savings.
The plan's cover sheet indicated that approximately $300,000 was anticipated to be saved through consolidation by RSU 73's third year of operation. Wall said that the district had exceeded that prediction, but that some people were assuming that consolidation would single-handedly prevent tax increases.
"We have realized much more than $300,000," Wall said. He went on to say that the consolidation process was continuing to move forward.
"Whether people like to admit it or not, RSU 73 is a work in progress," Rodzen said. The district needed to set a budget in order to continue the consolidation process, she noted. "Every time we go back to vote, it costs us money."
"There have been tremendous efforts and tremendous success, relative to the plan," Wall said. He said he intended to once again present information at upcoming budget sessions that would show projected tax assessments for all three towns with and without consolidation. In the past, Wall has also presented financial data from the past nine years which showed that each town's school tax assessment had decreased from the 2003-2004 fiscal year.
The school board is planning a budget session on Tuesday, Aug. 7 at 6 p.m. in the Spruce Mountain Middle School cafeteria to set a revised budget. Two days later, on Thursday, Aug. 9, the board will meet at the same time and place to set the budget meeting, which will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 14, at 6 p.m. in the middle school.
The third referendum would be held on Tuesday, Aug. 21 in all three towns. The district is required to wait 30 days from the previous vote.
One thing Wall said he would like to see was better attendance at both the budget meeting, which is generally attended by roughly 50 voters who then set the 2012-2013 budget for the entire school year, and at the validation referendum, which is mandated by the state.
"We'd like to see this room totally packed," Wall said.